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Drilling and sampling are the most direct and effective methods available to study Antarctic subglacial lakes. Based on the Philberth probe, a Recoverable Autonomous Sonde (RECAS) allows for in situ lake water measurement and sampling, through the addition of an upper thermal tip and a cable recoiling mechanism. RECAS-200, a prototype of RECAS, has a drilling depth of 200 m, a surface supply voltage of 800 VAC and a downhole power of ~9.6 kW during drilling. In this study, a heating control system for RECAS-200 was designed. The system avoids the need for high-power step-down converters, by separating heating power from control power, thereby reducing the overall weight of the probe and avoiding the need to increase cable diameter. We also introduce a self-developed, small, solid-state, 800 VAC power regulator and a fuzzy PID temperature control algorithm. Their purpose was to manage the power adjustment of each heating element and to provide closed-loop temperature control of certain heating elements which can easily burn out due to overheating. Test results indicated that the proposed RECAS-200 heating control system met all our design specifications and could be easily assembled into the RECAS-200 probe.
Subglacial lake exploration is of great interest to the science community. RECoverable Autonomous Sonde (RECAS) provides an exploration tool to measure and sample subglacial lake environments while the subglacial lake remains isolated from the glacier surface and atmosphere. This paper presents an electronic control system design of 200 m prototype of RECAS. The proposed electronic control system consists of a surface system, a downhole control system, and a power transfer and communication system. The downhole control system is the core element of RECAS, and is responsible for sonde status monitoring, sonde motion control, subglacial water sampling and in situ analysis. A custom RS485 temperature sensor was developed to cater for the limited size and depth requirements of the system. We adopted a humidity-based measurement to monitor for a housing leak. This condition is because standard leak detection monitoring of water conductivity may be inapplicable to pure ice in Antarctica. A water sampler control board was designed to control the samplers and monitor the on/off state. A high-definition camera system with built-in storage and self-heating ability was designed to perform the video recording in the subglacial lake. The proposed electronic control system is proven effective after a series of tests.
A series of new synthetic armored cables were developed and tested to ensure that they were suitable for use with the RECoverable Autonomous Sonde (RECAS), which is a newly designed freezing-in thermal ice probe. The final version of the cable consists of two concentric conductors that can be used as the power and signal lines. Two polyfluoroalkoxy jackets are used for electrical insulation (one for insulation between conductors, and the other for insulation of the outer conductor). The outer insulation layer is coated by polyurethane jacket to seal the connections between the cable and electrical units. The 0.65 mm thick strength member is made from aramid fibers woven together. To hold these aramid fibers in place, a sheathing layer was produced from a polyamide fabric cover net. The outer diameter of the final version of the cable is ~6.1 mm. The permissible bending radius is as low as 17–20 mm. The maximal breaking force under straight tension is ~12.2 kN. The cable weight is only ~0.061 kg m−1. The mechanical and electrical properties and environmental suitability of the cable were determined through laboratory testing and joint testing with the probe.
Monitoring the tension in cables is significant in some ice drill and deepwater applications. Take our RECoverable Autonomous Sonde (RECAS) for example. It is able to melt a hole to the bottom of ice sheet and is able to move upwards. A winch is installed inside RECAS to release and recover the cable, whose tension needs to be monitored in real time in order to control the behavior of the winch. The high pressure of deep water and limited installation space pose great challenges in sensor development. In this paper, two editions of newly designed deepwater tension sensors are proposed. The first edition is based on a fresh hydraulic load module that operates in high pressure environment and the second edition tension, which aims to improve the accuracy, applies a newly designed watertight load module. Detailed force transmission and characteristic analysis of the sensors are carried out. The sensors have got through a series of experiments, including calibration experiments, pressure experiments and field experiments. The resultant accuracy of the second edition sensor, which has a better performance, is over 2% under the measuring range of 1000 kg and the dimension of the final sensor is as compact as 150 mm × 137 mm × 86 mm.
The Antarctic subglacial drilling rig (ASDR) is designed to recover 105 mm-diameter ice cores up to 1400 m depth and 41.5 mm-diameter bedrock cores up to 2 m in length. In order to ensure safe and convenient drilling, drilling auxiliaries are designed to support fieldwork and servicing. These auxiliaries are subdivided into several systems for power supply, drill tripping in the borehole, ice core and chip processing, and drill servicing and maintenance. The required equipment also includes two generators, a drilling winch with a cable, logging winch with a cable, control desk, pipe handler with a fixed clamp, chip chamber vibrator, centrifuge, emergency devices and fitting and electrical tools. Additionally, several environmental protective measures such as a new liquid-tight casing with a thermal casing shoe and a bailing device for recovering drilling fluid from the borehole were designed. Most of the auxiliaries were tested during the summer of 2018–2019 near Zhongshan Station, East Antarctica while drilling to the bedrock to a depth of 198 m.
Drilling to the bedrock of ice sheets and glaciers offers unique opportunities for examining the processes occurring in the bed. Basal and subglacial materials contain important paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental records and provide a unique habitat for life; they offer significant information regarding the sediment deformation beneath glaciers and its effects on the subglacial hydraulic system and geology. The newly developed and tested Antarctic subglacial drilling rig (ASDR) is designed to recover ice and bedrock core samples from depths of up to 1400 m. All of the drilling equipment is installed inside a movable, sledge-mounted, temperature-controlled and wind-protected drilling shelter and workshop. To facilitate helicopter unloading of the research vessel, the shelter and workshop can be disassembled, with individual parts weighing <2–3 tons. The entire ASDR system weighs ~55 tons, including transport packaging. The ASDR is designed to be transported to the chosen site via snow vehicles and would be ready for drilling operations within 2–3 d after arrival. The ASDR was tested during the 2018–2019 summer season near Zhongshan Station, East Antarctica. At the test site, 2-week drilling operations resulted in a borehole that reached bedrock at a depth of 198 m.
A new, modified version of the cable-suspended Ice and Bedrock Electromechanical Drill (IBED) was designed for drilling in firn, ice, debris-rich ice and rock. The upper part of the drill is almost the same for all drill variants and comprises four sections: cable termination, a slip-ring section, an antitorque system and an electronic pressure chamber. The lower part of the IBED comprises an auger core barrel, reamers, a core barrel for ice/debris-ice drilling and a conventional geological single-tube core barrel or custom-made double-tube core barrel. First, the short and full-scale field versions of the IBED were tested at an outdoor testing stand and a testing facility with a 12.5 m-deep ice well. Then, in the 2018–2019 summer season, the IBED was tested in the field at a site ~12 km south of Zhongshan Station, East Antarctica, and a ~6 cm bedrock core was recovered from a 198 m-deep borehole. A total of 18 d was required to penetrate the ice sheet. The retrieved core samples of blue ice, basal ice and bedrock provided valuable information regarding the Earth's paleo-environment.
The Chinese First Deep Ice-Core Drilling Project DK-1 has commenced at Kunlun station in the Dome A region, the highest plateau in Antarctica. During the first season, within the 28th Chinese National Antarctic Research Expedition (CHINARE) 2011/12 the pilot hole was drilled and reamed in order to install a 100 m deep fiberglass casing. In the next season, 29th CHINARE 2012/13, the deep ice-core drilling system was installed, and all the auxiliary equipment was connected and commissioned. After filling the hole with drilling fluid (n-butyl acetate), three runs of ‘wet’ ice-core drilling were carried out and a depth of 131.24 m was reached. Drilling to the bedrock at the target depth of ∼3100 m is planned to be completed during a further four seasons. We describe the work in progress and the status of equipment for the Dome A drilling project.
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